Personal and professional papers of William Blair-Bell

Scope and Content

Papers of Professor William Blair-Bell reflecting his professional practice and his special interest and research work in gynaecology and the treatment of cancer using lead colloid, including correspondence with medics nationally and internationally, with patients concerning diagnosis, appointments and treatments, his role as Director of the Liverpool Medical Research Organisation, his personal life as master of Eardiston House, and his position within the professional network of gynaecologists and obstetricians in the UK and overseas; including his case books from his early medical practice in Wallasey, Merseyside, his lecture notebooks and research work as a medical student, published articles and reprints, and detailed research work on cancer patients.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Blair-Bell (1871-1936) was co-founder (with William Fletcher Shaw) of the British (later Royal) College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and its first President. The second son of William and Helen Bell, he was born in Wallasey, Merseyside in 1871 and educated at Rossall School, King's College London and King's College Hospital. In 1905 he left general practice in Wallasey and was appointed to the post of Assistant Consultant Gynaecologist to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. In 1918 he became senior surgeon and in 1921 was appointed to the Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Liverpool University, a position he held until 1931. In 1929 he married his cousin, Florence.

Blair-Bell was President of the Obstetric Section of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the North of England Gynaecological Society and the Liverpool Medical Institution. In 1911 he founded the Gynaecological Visiting Society (GVS). He was co-founder of the College in 1929 and presented the College with its first headquarters at 58 Queen Anne Street. He established the money for the William Blair-Bell memorial lectures and for other research projects. He was President of the College from its inception until 1935, the year before his death.


The previous arrangement of the files was unclear and could have been the result of the collection being broken up into lots for sale by auction. The broad arrangement as first catalogued is noted below:

S1/1-6: Miscellaneous personal correspondence on a wide range of topics.

S1/7-12: Correspondence, research papers, and reports concerned mainly with treatment for cancer.

S1/13-62: Correspondence mainly from practitioners referring patients or from patients with some replies from Blair-Bell.

3 boxes of unsorted material.

The collection was recatalogued between January and September 2012, and a composite arrangement imposed upon the files in order to facilitate access and to coordinate with the papers at S10 and S14.

Access Information

Open to researchers by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. mailto:

Acquisition Information

Purchased at auction by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1986.

Other Finding Aids

For full details, please apply to the College Archivist mailto:

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Penny Hutchins in September 2012

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is vested in the estate of Professor William Blair Bell. Reproductions are available at the discretion of the College Archivist

Custodial History

These papers were bought at auction by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1986, and need to be studied in conjunction with the papers at reference S10 which were deposited on loan to the College by the Datnow family trustees in 1988. Morris Datnow was a junior under Professor Blair-Bell at his practice in Liverpool, and later inherited his rooms, where these papers are thought to have been found. It is highly likely that the papers in S1 were separated from the papers in S10 as a result of a theft.